1986: Four Residents File Federal Discrimination Suit for Fair Public Housing

Two years after the West Dallas public housing project was built, it started experiencing significant vacancies in some of its units. The barracks-style housing project was surrounded by shotgun-style homes and was one of the poorest areas in Dallas (Glass, 1997) . Eventually, the housing project started to deteriorate and became a “…publicly owned slum” and a “gigantic monument to segregation and neglect” (Walker v. US Dept. of Housing & Urban Dev.,1989). Several units were boarded up, drug dealers, vandalism, and lead contamination were among some of the problems. Individuals did not want to live in this housing project and refused to accept housing in this part of Dallas. However, the Dallas Housing Authority would deny assisting families if they did not stay in one of the units in West Dallas (Walker v. US Dept. of Housing & Urban Dev.,1989).

Hacker, 2017

“Evidence at the Dec. 12, 1986 fairness hearing established that as many as 85% of the tenants at West Dallas wanted to move out of the “publicly-owned slums” and that from 15-20% of the tenants left West Dallas each year….” (Walker v. US Dept. of Housing & Urban Dev.,1989).

Eventually, four residents of the West Dallas projects filed a federal discrimination suit. The residents sued the Dallas Housing Authority; they said the DHA used discriminatory policies when assigning housing, placed a significant amount of blacks in West Dallas, and did not allow them to live in other parts of DFW (Pressley, 1995).

The lawsuit resulted in the demolition of the West Dallas housing projects. Smaller housing units were to be built in its place. Additionally, DHA would be required to provide housing to low-income families in other areas in DFW (Walker v. US Dept. of Housing & Urban Dev.,1989). The residents who initiated the lawsuit are an example of community members taking action against discriminatory practices that affect the lives of people of color in this community.

Hacker, 2017


Glass, J. (1997, July 20). Edgar Ward complex paves new way for public housing. Dallas Business Journal. https://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/stories/1997/07/21/focus2.html

Hacker, H. K. (2017, July 27). When the worst elementary school in Dallas closes, what happens to the kids? The Dallas Morning News. https://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/2017/07/27/when-the-worst-elementary-school-in-dallas-closes-what-happens-to-the-kids/

Pressley, S. A. (1995, December 27). Housing plans break Dallas pattern of life. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1995/12/27/housing-plans-break-dallas-pattern-of-life/0b686050-6aa5-489a-8abb-8b568bc1ba12/

Walker v. US Dept. of Housing & Urban Dev., 734 F. Supp. 1289 (1989). https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/734/1289/1461714/